Trinity School, Croydon withstood a strong comeback by The Judd School after half time, sharing six tries, but hung on to take the U18 London & South-East A Region final by a slim margin.
The result sets up a quarter final for Trinity at Harrow, a repeat of a dramatic U15 Cup semi final three years ago, and the game will be live streamed here on NextGenXV and can be seen on our YouTube Channel, Tik Tok Channel, and embedded below.
These two schools have enjoyed excellent seasons, both undefeated in the 70 minute format of the game. Trinity, holders of the Cup, came into the game ranked second in the NextGenXV Schools Rugby table, while Judd had opened their season with a win over neighbours Tonbridge School. Both sides were close to being at full strength, Trinity being without regular starting scrum half Lucas Friday, Fin Kennedy switching from inside centre, while Judd flanker Dante McNichol was conserving his energies for his upcoming representation of England Schools at the Indoor SIAB Combined Events meeting in Glasgow.
Despite the continued downpours in the days leading up to the game, there was sunshine at kickoff time, though with a stiff breeze enjoyed by the home side. Play was even for the opening ten minutes, though Judd were forced to go to the bench early, Isaac Canham coming on for Charlie Cordiner, scorer of the opening try in the previous round at Cardinal Newman. However, Trinity opened the scoring with excellent handing on the left after winning a scrum on halfway, England U18 full back Conor Byrne coming into the line and putting Max Farrell clear to score, fly Half Josh Bellamy adding the extras despite the difficult wind.
Judd hit back quickly, gaining possession at the restart and moving the ball through the hands on the right and although play was taken into touch, they regained possession at the lineout and Trinity were penalised on the 22. Full back Angus Hall was on target from the tee to get his side on the scoreboard. Trinity’s problems continued when the restart went directly into touch, and they were again penalised at the ensuing scrum. Hall’s long kick from hand set up an attacking lineout in the right corner and with possession won a maul was driven up towards the line but was held up by good defence.
Trinity were able to win the resulting scrum and Bellamy looked to run out of defence. Although he was stopped, Trinity retained possession at a lineout and clear to halfway with a box kick. Judd looked to regain field position with a kick to the 22 but were undone by a brilliant passage of play. The kick was fielded by Byrne who spotted an opportunity to use space on the right and he showed great pace to break beyond halfway before linking with wing Omar Leon who sprinted clear of the cover defence before offloading to centre Sam Medcraft who ran in to score under the posts, Bellamy adding the conversion
Although Trinity cleared securely from the restart, they were caught offside shortly thereafter, giving Judd the opportunity to gain field position, but although possession was won from a lineout on the right, the Trinity forwards were able to rip the ball and a clearance kick made. That was returned and strong running by Bellamy saw possession retained and Byrne and Leon combining again before the ball was moved through the hands on the left. Pressure was maintained from an attacking scrum but when play was switched to midfield the defence held firm, Judd winning a scrum and clearing to touch. Trinity won the ensuing lineout but Judd recovered possession and moved the ball effectively through the hands on the left, before switching play to the right where an excellent break was followed by an offload to wing Oliver Ebsworth who stretched to score wide out on the right. the conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
The restart was well taken by Judd captain and second row Toby Brown and when Trinity were penalised, Judd again gained good field position winning a lineout on the right, but, when play was switched to the left Leon intercepted. Although a handling error gave Judd the put-in at a scrum that was taken against the head and the turnover ball then gave Trinity the chance for another brilliant counter-attack. Bellamy broke in midfield, running to the 22 before offloading to Byrne who raced in to score under the posts, Bellamy adding the conversion to give the Cup holders teh advantage as half time approached.
Half-time: The Judd School 8-21 Trinity School
Despte turning to face the wind Judd looked determined to regain momentum. Centres Jake Tucker and Fin Stables combined on the left and another penalty conceded by Trinity gave Hall the chance to set up an attacking lineout, but the throw was judged to be not straight. Although Trinity were able to secure possession from the set scrum their attempt to run out of defence was thwarted when a forward pass was spotted, and they were penalised at the ensuing scrum. A quick tap was taken by Judd and with play taken up close to the line, Brown carrying strongly and offloading effectively before No 8 Frank Kitchen drove over to score under the posts, Hall converting to bring Judd to within a single score.
An arguably pivotal moment in the game came at the restart, when Byrne was taken out in the air when fielding a Judd box kick and required attention on the pitch. Thankfully he was able to continue. The officials’ decision was that a penalty was sufficient punishment. Although touch was missed, Trinity were able to maintain good field position, so that, when Judd were penalised at a scrum, Bellamy was able to take the three points on offer to put his side two scores clear.
Although Trinity were able to clear from the restart, they conceded a penalty when Judd ran back possession, giving Judd the chance to set up an attacking lineout on the left. When a maul was set up from that, Trinity were again penalised and kicked to the corner. Possession was initially lost, but a long period of pressure inside the Trinity 22 ensued, with a cross-kick to the right corner. After another attacking scrum, play was switched back to the left and an overlap created with initially seemed to have resulted in a try in the corner, but a forward pass had been spotted and, with a long advantage being played, play came back to the right corner. Further penalties were conceded by the defence and Trinity were reduced to 14 players when yellow was shown. With lineout possession secured, the ball was moved to the left but the defence held firm and finally Trinity were able to clear to half way.
Despite having emerged from a long period inside the 22 without addition to the score, Judd continued to press. After Byrne had again displayed his strong running, Trinity moved the ball to the left but were forced into touch and were penalised following the resulting lineout. With time running out but the game still finely balanced emotions were clearly running high on both sides, but the referee was able to restore discipline. The momentum remained with Judd and after strong running by Stables, Trinity were again penalised at the breakdown, giving Judd the chance to set up an attacking lineout in the left corner. Bown was again solid in securing possession and a maul set up. That was stopped but with advantage being played Stables carried again in midfield before the ball came back to Hall who offloaded to scrum half Seb Nottage who darted across for Judd’s third try. Trinity were further reduced when the referee again went to his pocket. The place-kicking duties were switched to Bouverie and the fly half was on target to reduce the deficit to two points.
There was time for the restart and with only seconds remaining Judd tried to get at least within kicking range, retaining possession and winning a scrum on the right with the referee indicating that it was the final play, but when the ball was moved through the hands on the left the ball carrier was held up and the referee blew up for full time.
This was a tremendous cup tie. Judd showed tremendous spirit and skill as they had done in previous rounds and dominated the second half but were ultimately undone by some moments of brilliance by two outstanding players. They will look forward to their Derby game against Skinners’ under lights on 9th December. Trinity’s attempt to retain the Cup remains alive and they will no doubt relish the upcoming clash with Harrow and will hope to have Friday back for that game. Many players on both sides played in the U15 Cup semi-final three seasons ago, decided in Harrow’s favour by a penalty try in the closing seconds, and Byrne will also remember the quarter final game when Harrow hung on for victory against his previous school, Wimbledon College.
Full-time: The Judd School 22-24 Trinity School
By Peter Crawshaw
The Judd School: John Disbrey, Dominic Stangroome, Seb Hillsdon, Toby Brown (Captain), Jonny Fitzmaurice, Henry Thompson, Harry Lewis, Frank Kitchen, Seb Nottage, Harry Bouverie, Charlie Cordiner, Fin Stables, Jake Tucker, Oliver Ebsworth, Angus Hall
Replacements: Jack Wilson, Henry Hartley, Henry Pallett, Isaac Canham, Eddie Trebess
Trinity School: David Bampoe, Quinn Singh, Kane Fleary, Oliver German, Joe Marvin, Edward Brown, William Peart-Smith, Roma Matebalavu, Fin Kennedy, Josh Bellamy, Max Farrell, Sam Medcraft, Oliver Bailey, Omar Leon, Conor Byrne
Replacements: Temi Asanbe, Oscar Sweeney